New perspectives inspired by Claude Steiner’s book, Scripts People Live
I think most of us think we understand oppression.
We know it includes a lot of heavy-handed brutality. We’re aware of the fact that a lot of media outlets and religious organizations oppress opposing viewpoints, and we also know that people from certain social groups are hindered in their attempts at getting food, housing, education, and job opportunities that are comparable to those available to the group(s) responsible for the oppression.
Around 2003, a friend gave me a copy of Scripts People Live, and it helped me understand some of the ways people oppress other people in personal relationships. Then in 2014, I was working through a process of discovery that led to the publication of my e-book, Critical Revelations in the Realm of Contemporary Spirituality, and I pulled Scripts People Live out of storage. Steiner’s concepts clarified and deepened my understanding of oppression in ways I never expected. I was stunned to realize that some people are actually sharing oppressive messages in spiritual communities.
For this review I was simply going to share Steiner’s concepts because they’ve helped me immensely in understanding other people’s attempts to try to influence and convince people to be who they want them to be, which reinforced my belief about oppression– that people shouldn’t be telling other people what to think or do. But as I started working on this review, I realized that every message we hear has the potential to affect our lives even though we try to ignore a lot of them. As I thought more about it, I realized that there have been certain times in my life when some of the messages have gotten louder or stronger in some way and that made me react to them.
While I know it’s normal to start reacting to the increasing intensity in some way, I realized that there is actually something remarkable happening, at least for some of us, as we listen to messages over and over that try to tell us who we are or who we should be.
It’s important to first understand how Steiner defines our thought processes.
Steiner divides the ego into three separate parts–The Adult, The Parent, and The Child. He developed this concept by analyzing everyday interactions between people, and it made a lot of sense to me because they come from our life models. I knew I could move in and out of ways of thinking and interacting with people that fit exactly with this definition of our ego states.
But there is another important aspect to Steiner’s concept. He explains that The Child also develops a version of The Adult, The Parent, and The Child, and it’s The Child’s Parent (C/P) in everyone that causes a lot of problems because this part of the ego has learned to parent incorrectly.
The C/P acts like a child in its attempts to parent others–using manipulation techniques like anger and tears, literally whatever it takes to get what it wants–which results in the abuse of power in relationships with children and the use of surprisingly subtle tactics to try to get what it wants from other adults.
Steiner defines the efforts The C/P uses to try to stop people from acting freely as injunctions. Injunctions include rules like “don’t ever show anger,” “don’t enjoy sex,” and “don’t think.” I’ve seen these kinds of ideas in social media posts like, “Don’t try to understand why something happened,” “Don’t complain,” and “The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.”
One of the other tools The C/P uses is attribution. When we think about the way someone tries to get others to do what they want, we typically think about them giving orders, but Steiner says it’s much more effective to simply tell the person who they are in a hypnotic way, over and over. He says it’s especially powerful when it is done in front of other people. Steiner also says that it can be done without even telling someone directly. We can find ourselves responding to things like a glance, a touch, or a cough. Some of the messages we hear, see, or recognize include, “You’re selfish,” “You’re inconsiderate,” “You’re fat,” and “You’re stupid.”
Discounting is another way to tell someone the things they think or do are worthless. A couple of examples include, “(Let me tell you what) The best things in life are…,” “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking (Nietze),” and “There is nothing stronger than gentleness.” This is similar to some of the ideas I was seeing in spiritual communities, namely that kindness and gentleness are the most important aspects of being spiritual. Here, we’re led to believe that we’ll never get any great ideas if we’re not walking and that other kinds of strengths are not as important.
As I moved beyond some of the difficult situations and relationships in my life, I just accepted the fact that problems were either resolved or the relationships ended.
I never really thought about the fact that I might be getting stronger because of them. I also never thought about the amount of time that passed as I endured difficult situations. I thought the situation or relationship ended simply because things had reached a point where I knew something needed to change.
But toward the end of my marriage, I began to experience something I’d never seen or heard about and it took me a long time to understand what was happening because I was led to believe that the things that were happening in my life weren’t possible.
A couple of months ago I found out that Carl Jung coined the term, synchronicity, to describe his experiences. I haven’t read everything Jung has shared, but the synchronous events I’ve heard about occurred within very short time spans. I’ve been experiencing many events that fit Jung’s definition of synchronicity, but I’ve also been experiencing events that have resulted in phenomenal gifts and mind-blowing opportunities that have unfolded over days, weeks, months, and even years, often during incredibly difficult times in my life. What is so remarkable about these events is their relationship to who I am–my history, my needs, the things I love, and who I have always wanted to be.
At this point I am no longer guessing. I know that God has been supporting me on my journey to become who I started to feel I wanted to be when I was in my teens. (Something that enable me to see this more clearly is the fact that my daughters are also experiencing the same kind of events.)
But during the difficult situations or relationships I experienced, things that some people were saying to me, and the things I was learning about what they were saying, were part of the process that pushed me to make decisions about who I really am and whether or not I was going to stay true to myself.
I could clearly see that, during a number of personal challenges I encountered, more and more pressure was applied as people tried to convince me to compromise, to be something other than who I am, and I began to recognize that I’d internalized some of it as well.
I think most of us have heard the idea that God puts us in difficult situations so we can learn, but I wondered why some of the situations had been so hard and had lasted so long.
The only conclusion I could reach is that I already had the strength I needed to handle the situation or I got it from the actions I was taking, which included reading and talking to people. When I was in my early 30s I had some health problems that pushed me to find out what was happening, and I remember thinking, “If I am going to have kids and work, I have to be strong enough to do both.” I began to change my life in radical ways, which at that time revolved around my diet and alcohol. I believe all of my actions gave me the strength to be able to endure each experience until the time was right for the next shift to occur because again and again, since 1998 when I first experienced an event that I knew was truly remarkable, I have felt like I was at a complete loss about how I was going to handle each situation, then astonishingly beautiful events have occurred that have given me and my daughters either just what we needed or more than we ever dreamed could be possible.
As I looked back on the experiences, I realized that somehow I knew that a couple of the shifts were coming or at least I could see part of them, which pushed me to start making preparations. In one case I realized I needed to make a move much sooner than I originally thought and a remarkable event occurred within a week. Some of the situations made me incredibly angry at first, but then as time moved forward I started to see that it was a shift my daughters or I had thought about for a long time and wanted. I just hadn’t necessarily wanted everything to happen the way it ended up happening.
I’ve gone through three intense life changes in the past ten years and I’ve watched each experience turn from standing in a state of terror about my future to experiencing streams of incredible events and gifts. It feels like God let me know that a shift was coming, that I had been given the opportunity to accept it or not during that time. I was given the time to ask myself the questions, “Am I strong enough for this? Am I willing to endure the changes that are going to occur if I do this?” Sometimes I didn’t think I could handle the things I felt were coming, then I would realize I was strong enough, that I could take the next steps even though every one of them also involved having to accept heartbreaking losses.
As I worked on this review I wondered, “Perhaps everyone experiences these types of incredibly difficult situations to enable them to see how strong they are, but does everyone get feelings that enable them to prepare for the difficult shifts that are coming? Is life a process of continually being tested to see how much we can endure, to see what decisions we’ll make in response to the tests? How many people say no to the tests and decide they don’t want to do anything that makes too many demands of them? When people compromise their lives because someone is discounting their abilities or influencing them with injunctions or attributions, are those people supposed to be doing that because it gives the other person the opportunity to stand up for themselves and create a shift that will show them the incredible beauty of life? Is this “the choice” in life? It’s not whether or not to believe in God, but whether or not we are going to stand up to others to be who we are?
From what I’ve experienced I believe our responses to these tests affects the path that God lays out for us.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about getting what they need at just the right time, and I believe I was given Scripts People Live at times when I needed it–at first to understand what other people were doing to me as well as to see what I was doing to myself, then to see that everything we experience in life is necessary because it creates the awareness that is needed to create change.
In 2012 I stopped discounting the events that have been happening in my life. I made a decision to do everything in my power to share what I’ve come to know about God. I stopped listening to things other people were telling me, including things that I’d come to believe about myself that were oppressing my true nature. As I’ve worked my way to the other side of the series of tests I mentioned above, I slowly found my way back to being my intensely introverted, rebellious self.
For many years I thought I was weak for compromising, for not knowing exactly what I should be doing at all times, for feeling like I had given up my power because I was trying to be something other people wanted me to be, but I believe that I had to go through those experiences to understand them and gain additional perspective and strength.
Scripts People Live enabled me to see that some people are always going to try to Child/Parent others and some of us are always going to reach a point where we say, “I have to be who I am,” and as we go through the process of making those decisions we become stronger and more capable of taking on increasingly difficult tasks. I’ve seen it over and over in the incredibly difficult situations and accomplishments both of my daughters have already experienced and they are only 16 and 22 years old.
Scripts People Live offers a number of other things that are of value including examples of interactions and a couple of words that are red flags in conversations. I didn’t even realize I was using one when I started out thinking, “People shouldn’t be telling other people what to think, do, or feel.”
Scripts People Live showed me that this is the way some people are, and I realized that it’s important to let everyone be who they are, no matter how much we might want them to be something else.
1) Steiner, Claude M. Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts. New York, NY: Grove, 1974. Print. 42.
2) Ibid; 60.
3) Ibid; 61.
4) I believe that the collection of life journeys has to include atheists. This is something I address in Critical Revelations, but I will add here that I believe atheists will either recognize God at some point in their lives in a manner similar to the way I have or be given a final choice.
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